Barbara Avery loves being a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. As a mother she loved playing with her children for hours, and at the age of 86, one of her favorite activities is attending her great-grandchildren's baseball games, swim meets, and school plays. What's more, her grandparents lived in Bridgton, and six generations later her family still resides in the same historic town in western Maine. "I have 6 children, 12 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren," she says without needing even a moment to recall the exact numbers. Every wall and flat surface in her house is covered with individually framed photographs. She orders the photographs by generation, and relishes the opportunity to talk about each person in her family as she points to their respective portrait.
Before moving into her apartment at Wayside Pines, she lived on Main St. and rent was getting harder and harder to afford. Luckily one of the units opened up, and in 1988, Barbara was provided a place to live that she could afford, and with that security, Barbara found a community in which she could thrive. "We always visit and cook each other food," she says referring to other residents of Wayside Pines. Barbara is particularly proud of and keen on sharing her banana bread and chicken with broccoli. Her best friend lives just two units over, however she considers all the residents her friends. "I like to take them shopping because I still have my car and I can still drive." Later as she tells us her story, Barbara reveals her sense of community extends far beyond an occasional car ride.
Barbara’s ex-husband, Bernard, lived in a unit just across the courtyard. Though they divorced many years ago, Barbara tended to him for 3 years when Alzheimer’s rendered him incapable of taking care of himself. "He didn't have anyone, so it was the only thing to do. He wasn’t a bad man or a bad father. He just had a way.” Of course, in reality there was no mandate to care for him, and one wonders was Bernard able to recognize this act of selfless compassion and forgiveness in his final years? Did he understand that this uninhibited gesture of love was always there for him?
Barbara is quick to voice her affection and appreciation of the people she loves. Upon arriving and leaving her apartment, she eagerly hugged and showerd with kisses on the cheek, Wayside Pine's former resident service coordinator, Andrea Sinclair. "I love my life here. I'm so grateful." She pauses. "And I'm crazy!" She nearly shouts, laughs, then proceeds to tell us that last night her son took her to go dancing to country music, that just a few nights ago she sang karaoke, and that in the summertime she still loves to go camping. For a woman who needs a respirator four times a day, she remains impressively active. She lives to love and support those around her. Her nature is inherently to nurture, especially her family. When it is time for us to leave her apartment, Barbara tells Andrea she loves her three times before we even make it to the door!
Resident, Wayside Pines